First Russian Congress on Patients discusses the Bill of Patients??‚?? Rights

The congress was held in Moscow and was attended by representatives of public patients' organisations. Its main task was to discuss and approve a Bill of Patients’ Rights in Russia. The bill was drawn up by the Co-chair of the Russian Association of Patients, Aleksandr Saversky, head of the Patients’ Union, and Elena Volskaya, chairwoman of the Inter-University Committee on Ethics and Associate Professor of the Department for Management of Public Health Services at the Moscow Medical Academy.

The bill aims to uphold sixteen rights for patients: right to prevention of illness, right to treatment, right to receive information and give consent, right to choose, right to a private life and confidentiality, right to have their time respected, right to receive first-rate treatment, right to safety, right to receive new methods of treatment, right not to be in pain and suffering, right to individual treatment, right to complain and receive compensation, as well as the right to protection and the rights of relatives to receive information and make decisions in certain situations. According to the bill, an Ombudsman for Patients’ Rights and Health in Russia should be appointed and patients should be afforded the same rights under the ‘Consumers Association of the Russian Federation’ as ordinary citizens.

According to Peter Shelish, chairman of the  ‘Consumers Association of the Russian Federation’, granting patients the same rights as consumers will “help the association to defend patients’ rights.” The current laws for patients in state clinics and hospitals do not give them the same status as consumers since the latter are considered as being people who pay for services. The ‘Consumers Association’ can only represent patients in private clinics. However, since 1994 the organisation has been carrying out sociological surveys in regions. One of the questions is “What areas should the government focus more on?” The second most popular answer is polyclinics. More than 50% of respondents think the situation in polyclinics needs to change. Of these, 70% complain about the long queues, 54% say customer service is poor and more than 5% complain about the high prices. Many Russians think that the situation in hospitals is better; hospitals came in 6th place in the survey. However, 65% of respondents complained about bad customer service, which is a big problem in hospitals. Shelish has expressed hope that the actions of the Russian Association of Patients will change the situation.

In his written address to the Congress, Leonid Roshal, head of the National Medical Chamber, stressed Russian peoples’ discontent with health care. Roshal cited statistics showing that only 30% of Russians are satisfied with their health care and said the reason is because the health system is extremely underfunded. Roshal thinks that the key to improving the industry’s problems lies in doctors’ and patients’ co-operation to draw attention to the issues. Evgeny Achkasov, head of the Public Chamber Commission on Health and Environment, agreed with Roshal. Achkasov also called for co-operation between the Russian Association of Patients and the Public Chamber. Veronika Skvortsova, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Development stated that “We are ready to support this initiative.” Skvortsova assured listeners that the Ministry was ready to approve the Bill of Patients’ Rights and said that the Ministry was developing a new law ‘Protecting Citizens’ Health’, which will uphold the right to treatment, right to information about health, and right to privacy. According to Skvortsova, the Ministry is ready for close co-operation with patient organisations, in particular in the area of improving the quality of health services. Saversky, co-author of the bill and initiator of the congress, said that the patient “is the person who unites everyone.”

Translated by Lina Numan

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